Genetic variation in the vulnerable and endemic Monkey Puzzle tree, detected using RAPDs

Araucaria araucana (Monkey Puzzle), a southern South American tree species of exceptional cultural and economic importance, is of conservation concern owing to extensive historical clearance and current human pressures. Random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers were used to characterise genetic heterogeneity within and among 13 populations of this species from throughout its natural range. Extensive genetic variability was detected and partitioned by analysis of molecular variance, with the majority of variation existing within populations (87.2%), but significant differentiation was recorded among populations (12.8%). Estimates of Shannon's genetic diversity and percent polymorphism were relatively high for all populations and provide no evidence for a major reduction in genetic diversity from historical events, such as glaciation. All pairwise genetic distance values derived from analysis of molecular variance ((Phi(ST)) were significant when individual pairs of populations were compared. Although populations are geographically divided into Chilean Coastal, Chilean Andes and Argentinean regions, this grouping explained only 1.77% of the total variation. Within Andean groups there was evidence of a trend of genetic distance with increasing latitude, and clustering of populations across the Andes, suggesting postglacial migration routes from multiple refugia. Implications of these results for the conservation and use of the genetic resource of this species are discussed.

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